Sometimes the clutter in my office drives me crazy. This morning I had coffee with an old friend, the comedienne Denise Scott and we talked about the comedy festival and life and writing and how easy it is to get distracted. After Scotty had headed out into her day, I sat in the cafe and made a long list of everything that I needed to do when I got back to my office. Somehow it was much easier to think through what needed doing when it wasn’t actually in front of me. I know many writers who prefer to work in cafe’s, rather than in their own spaces. The only time that’s worked for me was one very hot summer when I was working on Walking Home with Marie-Claire. My office grew so unbearably steamy that I had to retreat to a local cafe to take advantage of their air-conditioning. JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter stories in a cafe to escape the cold. So obviously cafe’s work well for all types of writers in all kinds of seasons. But mostly I prefer them for list making – not real writing.
Libraries are a different story, though they are full of divine distraction. I think the only reason I am a writer is that I love the company of books – other people’s no less than my own. Lately, I I’ve been re-reading the work of one of my favourite historians, Barbara Tuchman, who was a true library addict. I can really relate to her quote:
Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.
Tuchman’s book on the 14th Century, A Distant Mirror, is still one of the best works of popular history on the medieval period. I first read it in my late teens, alongside a huge swag of fantasy, and her history informed and enriched my reading of all the fiction. I wish I’d read it before I finished high school as I suspect it would have seriously influenced me to study history at university but the book wasn’t published until I was already on my way to California to practice being a serious drifter – long before my days of committed list-making and novel writing.
One of the things I wrote on my list this morning, was to try and blog more regularly. I enjoy the process and the discipline but life is crowded. How to juggle all the different wants, all the different words, all the different ways of bringing books to life? Maybe I need to go back to spending more time in the library and less in my office that is so crowded with distractions. Maybe I need to rearrange the office. Maybe I need to get off the internet and get back to my novel.